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France detains soccer great Platini in 2022 World Cup probe

By John Leicester and Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — French police investigating whether corruption played a role in the stunning decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar took 1980s soccer superstar and former top executive Michel Platini into custody Tuesday for questioning. Platini's representatives denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying he is "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself for." Also questioned Tuesday were two one-time associates of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, adding a layer of political intrigue to the investigation of the hugely controversial decision to hold soccer's showcase tournament in a desert country so scorching hot in June and July that the matches will be played instead in November and December. As head of European soccer's governing body UEFA, Platini was the continent's top representative on the FIFA committee that picked Qatar in 2010. The closed-door, secret-ballot vote baffled many at the time, not least because the Persian Gulf nation has no soccer pedigree to speak of. But gas-rich Qatar is pouring billions into the world's most popular sport and has the means to finance new stadiums. Platini, 63, was taken into custody after being summoned to a French police anti-corruption and financial crimes office outside Paris, a judicial official told The Associated Press, confirming a report by online publication Mediapart. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. French authorities did not announce any charges against the soccer legend or say exactly what he was being asked. He can be held for questioning for up to 48 hours, after which he can be either released or formally charged. It was the latest turn in a string of scandals in recent years that have brought down dozens of soccer officials from FIFA and other organizations over such offenses as vote-buying, kickbacks and bribery. French prosecutors are known to be investigating an array of winning bids for major sports events, including the 2018 World Cup, awarded to Russia, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and track and field world championships. Qatar beat the long-favored United States 14-8 when FIFA selected the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who presided over the vote, has accused Platini of backing out of a secret "gentleman's agreement" to award the tournament to the United States after meeting with Sarkozy, France's president at the time. Platini's representatives said he was taken into custody only for "technical reasons." His lawyer, William Bourdon, explained that police wanted to ensure that Platini and other witnesses couldn't confer with each other about their accounts. Also detained Tuesday was Sophie Dion, a former sports adviser in Sarkozy's administration, the judicial official said. She was released late in the evening. Claude Gueant, former secretary general of the Elysee presidential palace under Sarkozy, was questioned as a witness and not detained. French prosecutors previously questioned Blatter. Ahead of the FIFA vote, Sarkozy hosted a meeting in November 2010 that brought Platini together with Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, then the crown prince of Qatar and now its ruling emir. Al-Thani also owns the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Sarkozy frequently attends its games. Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later. "Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good," he told the AP in 2015. But in the same interview, he also said that he "might have told" American officials earlier that he was going to vote for the United States' bid. Blatter quoted Platini as saying ahead of the vote: "I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider the situation of France." FIFA had no comment on Platini's detention and said it has made a "full commitment to cooperating with the authorities." As a player, Platini was one of the best ever, a creative midfielder who lit up the pitch for club and country. He helped France reach the World Cup semifinals in 1982 and 1986 and led his national team to the 1984 European Championship title. He also played club soccer for Nancy and Saint-Etienne before switching to Italian club Juventus. He won three straight Ballon d'Or titles as the best player in Europe while playing for Juventus from 1983 to 1985. Both Platini and Blatter were toppled from their positions at the top of soccer in 2015. Platini was banned by FIFA for financial misconduct in connection with a $2 million payment authorized by Blatter — a suspension set to expire in October. ___ AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in Nice, France, and AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 19th, 2019

Former FIFA head Blatter: Sarkozy meeting key to Qatar vote

By Graham Dunbar, Associated Press GENEVA (AP) — Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter says the arrest of soccer great Michel Platini as part of a French corruption probe lends weight to his version of how the United States lost the 2022 World Cup vote to Qatar. Blatter told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has insisted for years that the result of the 2010 vote was swayed by a meeting in Paris two weeks earlier involving then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Platini and Qatar's future Emir. Blatter spoke hours after Platini, the former France midfielder who was the UEFA president at the time of the vote, was detained in Paris on Tuesday by French authorities who also questioned two former Sarkozy aides. "It's all detailed — what I always said," Blatter told the AP in a telephone interview from Zurich, citing the twobooks he has published since being banned by FIFA. Qatar beat the long-favored U.S. 14-8 in a final round of voting by a since-discredited FIFA executive committee. Most of the voters have since been banned by FIFA — including Blatter and Platini — indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice, or implicated elsewhere in financial wrongdoing. Two weeks ahead of the vote in Zurich, Platini had been hosted by Sarkozy at the French presidential residence, and met senior Qatari officials including then-crown prince Sheikh Tamim. According to Blatter, that Élysée Palace lunch changed the course of FIFA's plan to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 edition to the U.S. on the same day. "Platini phoned me and said, 'Listen, president, our gentlemen's agreement which we have made inside the FIFA executive committee will have difficulties to work,'" Blatter said Tuesday. In Blatter's version, Platini — who in 2015 acknowledged switching sides — and three other voters from European soccer body UEFA changed their planned American support. "It was four votes which have disappeared," he said. "If you change the four votes then the winner will be the USA." Platini has long insisted that the meeting did not influence his vote for Qatar less than two weeks later. "Sarkozy never asked me to vote for Qatar, but I knew what would be good," he told the AP in 2015. But, in the same interview, he also said that he "might have told" American officials earlier that he was going to vote for the United States' bid. On Tuesday, Platini's representatives denied any wrongdoing on his part, saying he is "absolutely confident in the future" and has "strictly nothing to reproach himself for." The 83-year-old Blatter, who is serving a six-year ban by the FIFA ethics committee, was interviewed as a potential witness by French investigators in Zurich in April 2017. On a day of intrigue for Blatter, the attorney general for Switzerland was recused from overseeing a sweeping criminal investigation of FIFA officials. The Swiss, French and American cases have shared information and evidence over the past five years, since the Blatter-led FIFA filed a complaint in 2014 about suspected money laundering in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. Now, Switzerland's federal criminal court removed attorney general Michael Lauber from his department's case because of undeclared meetings with current FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The federal court says it upheld requests by two claimants it did not identify. "Now I get part of my trust and confidence in the Swiss justice back," said Blatter, who has been a criminal suspect since September 2015 but never charged. He denies wrongdoing in a case which ended his 18-year FIFA presidency, and asked Tuesday: "Why the hell is not all over yet?" Criminal proceedings against Blatter are among at least 25 opened by Lauber's federal prosecution team in the wider soccer probe. Lauber's job has been at risk since two 2016 meetings with Infantino were revealed last November in the Football Leaks series publishing confidential emails and documents from the soccer industry. A disciplinary case was opened against Lauber last month when an undeclared third meeting with Infantino in Bern in June 2017 was revealed. "This is an old story," Blatter said of the investigations against him, adding he is recovering from knee replacement surgery four weeks ago. "I do hope that the Lord will give me enough time to live and to have a look at the end of this story.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 19th, 2019

For US men, Gold Cup finally brings chance for revival

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — The overarching goal for the fledgling U.S. men's soccer team, as frequently stated by new coach Gregg Berhalter, has been to improve the perception of this sputtering program within the cutthroat hierarchy of global soccer. Though a strong performance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup probably won't move the needle much, the Americans surely would benefit, simply, from winning. Their opening game against Guyana on Tuesday night at Allianz Field in St. Paul, the new home of Major League Soccer's Minnesota United, will mark the first competitive match for the U.S. since the infamous defeat at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, 2017, that kept the team for qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. It follows a stretch of 18 consecutive friendlies. "There will be some nerves, but for us it's just about continuing to make progress throughout this tournament," Berhalter said last week after a training session at the National Sports Center in Blaine, a suburb of Minneapolis. "I think part of our profession is playing under pressure, playing in big events, and this is a great opportunity for us to learn." The 20-month gap between competitive games is the longest for the Americans since a 38-month span following a loss to Costa Rica on May 31, 1985, their final qualifier for the 1986 World Cup. Their next match that counted was a draw at Jamaica on July 24, 1988, their first qualifier for the 1990 World Cup. The U.S. won the biennial Gold Cup in 2017, a sixth title in 14 editions of the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Mexico, the clear favorite, has won seven such crowns. Before any mental energy can be spent on assessing the ability to compete with their border rival to the south, though, the Americans, who are ranked 30th in the world, must advance from the group stage. On the surface, Panama (75th), Trinidad and Tobago (92nd) and Guyana (177th) don't appear to be daunting competition, but the way the U.S. team played this month in exhibition losses to Jamaica (1-0) and Venezuela (3-0) there will be no guarantees of automatic wins. The Americans are missing injured players DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Tyler Adams, all first-choice starters. "If it doesn't go well you can just feel that more pressure is going to build, more questions will be asked, more scrutiny will be on Berhalter and the federation, and the outside noise is only going to get louder," said former U.S. midfielder Stu Holden, now a Fox analyst. "That's why it's really important that this team has a really good showing in this tournament." With the U.S. women leading their side of the world rankings and off to a dominant start this month in France at the Women's World Cup , the men's team won't be able to avoid the comparison game. The Americans can't mute the fan angst that has followed them for nearly two years, either, but they can at least take a meaningful step forward in the Berhalter era by displaying some potential within the pressing, possession-prioritized style he has rolled out . "We want to progress. Of course that also means winning the games, but we want to develop our style," midfielder Weston McKennie said. "Our goal is to make people see U.S. Soccer as something different as what they see now, probably." McKennie is one of the 20-year-old up-and-comers the program has staked itself to in the quest to not only return to the World Cup in 2022 but do some damage on the sport's biggest stage. The other, of course, is Christian Pulisic , who is joining English Premier League power Chelsea from Germany's Borussia Dortmund for a $73 million transfer fee. That is a record price for an American player. Veterans of the national side like Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are still around, among just six holdovers from the roster that went to Trinidad. They are joined by Pulisic, defenders Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, and forward Paul Arriola on what has become a youngster's team. Getting this team in sync, socially and psychologically, might be just as important of a task for Berhalter as with the technical implementation of his system. "In warmups, they have to give each other high-fives," Berhalter said. "We do team events off the field, like going to movies together and going to restaurants together. I think that's really important to build that team chemistry." Now more than ever. "Everyone right now outside has their opinions about us, and the past couple of games, and that's perfectly fine," forward Paul Arriola said. "For us the message stays the game, and it's staying together as a team. That's how you're going to win an international tournament.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 18th, 2019

Czechs stun England in Euro qualifying; France, Portugal win

By Joseph Wilson, Associated Press It was a night of European soccer to forget for England, and one to remember for Andorra. England conceded a late goal against the Czech Republic on Friday and paid the price with its first defeat in a qualifying game in 10 years, while France and Portugal made progress in their bids for places at next year's European Championship. As for Andorra, it ended a 56-match losing streak. A goal five minutes from the end halted England's unbeaten streak in qualifying for a major competition with the Czechs beating Gareth Southgate's team 2-1. A victory in Prague would have secured a spot for England at the finals with three games to go. Instead, England squandered a one-goal lead and lost its first match in European or World Cup qualifying since falling to Ukraine in 2009. That loss came with England already qualified for the 2010 World Cup. Its last meaningful defeat in qualifying was against Croatia in 2007. "We didn't play well enough, simple as that," said Southgate. Captain Harry Kane gave England the lead in the fifth minute from the penalty spot. But Jakub Brabec leveled for the Czechs four minutes later and substitute Zdenek Ondrasek completed the comeback late with his first international goal. He scored with a low right-foot shot from inside the area. "I just wanted to hit the ball right and put it in the net," said Ondrasek, who plays for FC Dallas. "I saw tears in the eyes of my father probably for the first time in my life. It's a great win and great feeling." England had won all four of its previous games in Group A. It is tied atop the standings with the Czechs on 12 points but has one more game to play. Group strugglers Bulgaria and Montenegro drew 0-0. Top-ranked Belgium became the first team to qualify for next year's tournament on Thursday. The top two teams of each group advance automatically. The other four qualifiers will come through four tiers of playoffs in March. PORTUGAL ROLLS ON Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 94th goal for Portugal to help the defending European champions brush aside Luxembourg 3-0 in Lisbon. Ronaldo pounced on a bad pass near the area and chipped the goalkeeper in the 65th. Bernardo Silva put Portugal in control from the 16th. With Portugal 2-0 ahead, substitute Goncalo Guedes added a third goal. Ukraine kept its lead of Group B after midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi scored twice in a 2-0 victory over Lithuania. Unbeaten Ukraine has 16 points. Portugal has 11, ahead of Serbia with seven. Both Portugal and Serbia have one more game to play than Ukraine. Portugal plays at Ukraine on Monday. FRANCE ON PACE World champion France and Turkey both took big steps in qualifying with wins which consolidated their Group H lead. Olivier Giroud scored to help France earn a hard-fought 1-0 win at Iceland, while Turkey needed a 90th-minute goal from Cenk Tosun to push it past Albania 1-0 in Istanbul. Both France and Turkey have 18 points. Iceland, the revelation of Euro 2016, is in third place with 12 points and at risk of missing the 2020 edition. France hosts Turkey at Stade de France on Monday. Giroud converted a penalty in the 66th after a foul earned by Antoine Griezmann. Giroud set up Griezmann by heading down a long ball for his fellow forward, who was then fouled by Iceland's Ari Freyr Skulason. France midfielder N'Golo Kanté was ruled out of the match reportedly for a hamstring problem. It was game No. 200 for Didier Deschamps as player and now coach of France. He played 103 games for France and has directed 97 from the dugout. Steve Mandanda played in goal for France in place of Hugo Lloris, who is out with a broken elbow. FIRST WIN Andorra made history of its own in Group H with a 1-0 win over Moldova, the first time the tiny mountainous nation had avoided defeat in 57 European qualifiers. Midfielder Marc Vales headed in the Andorran goal in the 63rd after Moldova had been reduced to 10 men. Andorra, with fewer than 80,000 residents nestled in the Pyrenees between Spain and France, had lost all 56 of its previous games in European qualifying......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 12th, 2019

Hello, World Cup: A record field set for FIBA s main event

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press SHANGHAI (AP) — The biggest basketball World Cup is about to begin. Many of the world’s top players — and a couple of the world’s top national teams — are not in China for the FIBA World Cup, a 32-team extravaganza that begins Saturday. At stake over the next 16 days: The world championship, along with seven of the 11 remaining available berths in next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. And several teams figure they can be the one to thwart the United States’ bid for an unprecedented third straight crown. “We’re here to go for gold,” said Sasha Djordjevic, the coach of Serbia — a team that some consider the tournament’s gold-medal favorite. “Every game that we play will be the biggest game for us.” The first eight games of the tournament are Saturday, and things will move quite rapidly. The eight-game-a-day pace continues through Sept. 9, with quarterfinal games on Sept. 10 and 11, semifinals on Sept. 13 with the event capped by the gold- and bronze-medal games in Beijing on Sept. 15. All told, 92 games will be played in eight cities. “We have nothing to lose,” said Japan guard Yuta Watanabe, whose team will face the U.S. in the group stage. FIBA changed much about the tournament for this edition. The event was moved back a year; the last World Cup was in 2014, and it was bumped to 2019 this time around to avoid going against the FIFA World Cup for men’s soccer in the same years. The field was expanded from 24 to 32 and qualifying rules were vastly altered largely to keep NBA and other pro-league players from helping their countries reach the event. For some nations, that became a huge problem. European champion Slovenia, the world’s seventh-ranked team, is not in the World Cup. Same goes for world No. 9-ranked Croatia, which lost eight of its 12 qualifying games. Yet for other nations, the changes sparked opportunity — Nigeria, Venezuela, Italy and Japan all qualified for the first time since 2006, and Poland made the field for the first time since 1967. “The World Cup is an unbelievable competition,” said Canada coach Nick Nurse, who doubles as coach of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. “Great teams and coaches and scouting and work and preparation that will make anyone better for going through that. So I’m extremely honored and excited and humbled to be here.” Most of the top Americans aren’t in the World Cup, a few because of injuries, other candidates cited schedule concerns. Of the 35 leading scorers from this past NBA season who would have been eligible to play for the U.S. team, only two — Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz — are wearing the red, white and blue in China. “I’m more concerned with who is here than who isn’t,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. For the international teams, though, there’s minimal concern about big-name absences. Greece is led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Serbia is led by All-NBA center Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and France features third-team All-NBA center Rudy Gobert. And the host Chinese are hoping to make a splash as well. “It’s a rare opportunity for all of us,” former NBA player Yi Jianlian, now the Chinese captain, said in Beijing earlier this week. “You can feel the special duty when you see the national flag on your chest.” Some other things to know as the World Cup begins: FORMAT Teams were drawn into eight groups of four for the opening round, with the two top teams from each group making the round of 16 and the others going into classification games to determine 17th through 32nd place. Games are four 10-minute quarters, so regulation is eight minutes shorter than an NBA game. The 3-point line is a bit closer than in the NBA, especially from the top of the arc — that’s 22 feet, 2 inches in FIBA play, or 19 inches closer than the NBA stripe. The top two teams from the Americas, top two from Europe and top regional finisher form Asia, Africa and Oceania will clinch spots to join Japan in the 2020 Olympics; the last four spots in the 12-team field for the Tokyo Games will come down to qualifying next July. BEST GROUP The so-called “group of death” would be Group H, with Australia (which just beat the U.S. in a friendly to snap a 78-game winning streak by the Americans), Lithuania and Canada. All three of those teams are likely good enough to advance, yet only two will get to the round of 16 with a shot at the quarterfinals. Senegal rounds out that group. U.S. RECORD The Americans have won 19 consecutive World Cup (formerly known as the world championship) games, and are 14-0 in games in China when using a roster composed of NBA players (8-0 in the 2008 Olympics and 6-0 in other games there in 2006 and 2008). Mason Plumlee is the only player on this year’s U.S. World Cup team that was on the gold-medal-winning roster at this event in 2014. REFRESHER COURSE Seven of the eight quarterfinalists from the 2014 World Cup are in this year’s field. The U.S. beat Lithuania and Serbia beat France in the semifinals, and the Americans rolled to a 129-92 win in the gold-medal game behind 26 points from Kyrie Irving. France rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Lithuania for bronze 95-93. GLOBAL GAME FIBA, basketball’s global organizing body, says the tournament will be televised in at least 176 countries and territories......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 31st, 2019

US men also seek soccer title, face Mexico for Gold Cup

By Ronald Blum, Associated Press CHICAGO (AP) — Remember the U.S. men's soccer team? It's also playing for a trophy on Sunday, taking on Mexico at Soldier Field in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Gone from the national sports consciousness since its October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago ended a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances, the men's program is trying to regroup under new coach Gregg Berhalter. The American women play the Netherlands in France at 11 a.m. EDT, chasing their fourth world championship, and they are livid they have to share the spotlight with the Copa America final between host Brazil and Peru at 4 p.m. and the U.S. men seeking their seventh Gold Cup title at 9:15 p.m. "I look at it differently. I think that this is an opportunity to be Soccer Day in America," Berhalter said. "When you think about the opportunity for the women to win the World Cup in the morning and then you get to I think party for half the afternoon, then you get to take a little nap, and then you get up, you go to the game and you enjoy the final of Gold Cup." The men have outscored opponents 15-1 in five matches, while the women have a 24-3 advantage in six. "Our whole focus is on us," forward Jordan Morris said. "We're wishing them all the best, of course, and we want them to win the championship, as well, but we don't think about that too much, just really what we can do to come out and win our game." He would have preferred not to play on the same day. "Ideally I guess that would be great that they get their own focus being in a World Cup final and we'll get our own and Copa America gets their own," Morris said. The U.S. is 6-4 in Gold Cup finals, beating Mexico in 2007 and losing in 1993, '98, '09 and '11. The Americans won their only consecutive regional titles in 2005 under Bruce Arena and 2007 under Bob Bradley. Morris, whose 88th-minute goal lifted the U.S. over Jamaica in the 2017 final, is among six holdovers from that roster, joined by defenders Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez, midfielders Michael Bradley and Paul Arriola, and forward Jozy Altidore. Led by 20-year-midfielder Christian Pulisic, the U.S. is mostly a young team with a sprinkling of veterans and is testing 24-year-old goalkeeper Zack Steffen in a tournament for the first time. Pulisic, who reports to Chelsea next week, has enhanced his status as by far the top American player. "When I think about this month for him, it's been a lot of personal development," Berhalter said, "in terms of just him blossoming with his personality within the group, his importance to the team on the field. The skills haven't changed, right, from a month, but in terms of his role, what he's comfortable with, how he's embracing his role within the team and his role on and off the field, it's been really nice to see." The Gold Cup has been Berhalter's first extended time with his full player pool and the only lengthy one before World Cup qualifying starts next year. "I'm obviously super-excited for the challenge," Pulisic said. Neither team is at full strength. The U.S. is missing right-side starters DeAndre Yedlin and Tyler Adams, plus central defender John Brooks, all because of injuries. El Tri, in its first tournament under new coach Tata Martino, is going for its eighth Gold Cup title. It had a more onerous path to the final that included a penalty-kicks victory over Costa Rica and an extra-time win over Haiti. Mexico's roster has just five players who started the round-of-16 loss to Brazil at last year's World Cup: goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, defenders Edson Álvarez and Carlos Salcedo, and midfielders Andrés Guardado and Jesús Gallardo. Among the missing are all three forwards who started against the Selecao: Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano. "We do miss these players," Martino said through a translator. "We play with the soccer players that respond to the call." U.S. players hope American fans are celebrating even before the kickoff, savoring a victory by the women over the Dutch. "Let's hope we both win the finals and make it a historical day in the history of American soccer," winger Tyler Boyd said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 7th, 2019

Briton falls to death at 2022 Qatar World Cup stadium site

ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer A British man fell to his death this week at a World Cup stadium building site in Qatar, where construction conditions have come under sharp scrutiny since the country was awarded the 2022 soccer tournament. The 40-year-old man has not been named by World Cup organizers or the company overseeing the building of the Khalifa International Stadium , which will also host the world track championships in 2019. The contractor, a joint venture between Belgian and Qatari firms, said it was still working with local authorities to establish the cause of Thursday's death. br /> 'The fatal accident took place while the worker was on a suspended catwalk platform designed to manage technical functions relating to sound and light installations,' Midmac-Six Construct said in a statement Friday. 'For unknown reasons one of the lever hoists supporting the platform failed, causing the fall of the worker, who was wearing all his safety equipment, including the safety harness. br /> 'Sadly, the harness was cut during the fall with a fatal outcome. What caused the cut is subject to further investigation.' br /> The stadium, which was first built on the site in 1976, is next to the Aspire sports academy and is described by organizers as 'Qatar's most historic stadium.' br /> 'All parties concerned will carefully review the circumstances of the accident and commit to take any necessary measures that can prevent its recurrence,' Midmac-Six Construct said. br /> Qatar's World Cup organizing committee is also investigating the incident and said it 'shares our deepest condolences with the family for their loss.' br /> Qatar has previously announced the death of four stadium workers, with one fatality the result of a work-related accident. br /> The focus of the scrutiny has been on Qatar's use of a low-paid, migrant workforce to build the sites for the first World Cup in the Middle East, but the organizers are also relying on expertise from Europeans to oversee projects. br /> FIFA, which awarded the World Cup to Qatar in a 2010 vote, said it 'deeply regrets the loss of life' at the stadium. br /> 'It is with great sadness that we send our sincere condolences to the victim's family and colleagues,' FIFA said in a statement. br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 10th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 7th, 2017

Iran women attend FIFA soccer game for first time in decades

By Amir Vahda and Mehdi Fattahi, Associated Press TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — They had to sit well apart from the men, and the stadium was practically empty, but thousands of Iranian women in merry jester hats and face paint blew horns and cheered Thursday at the first FIFA soccer match they were allowed to freely attend in decades. In what many considered a victory in a decades-long fight by women in Iran to attend sporting events, they wrapped themselves in the country's vibrant red, green and white colors and watched with excitement as Iran thrashed Cambodia 14-0 in a 2022 World Cup qualifier at Tehran's Azadi, or Freedom, Stadium. "We are so happy that finally we got the chance to go to the stadium. It's an extraordinary feeling," said Zahra Pashaei, a 29-year-old nurse who has only known soccer games from television. "At least for me, 22 or 23 years of longing and regret lies behind this." As one woman shouted from a passing minibus before the match: "We are here finally!" So far, Iran's hard-line Islamic theocracy is not willing to go as far some women would like. Authorities announced they will allow women to attend only international soccer matches. Women have been banned from many sporting events in Iran since 1981, during the early years of the country's Islamic Revolution. Iran is the world's last nation to bar women from soccer matches. Saudi Arabia recently began letting women see games. Under pressure from FIFA, Iran let a carefully controlled number of women into the stadium, allocating them 4,000 tickets in a venue that seats about 80,000 people, and arranged for 150 female security personnel in black chadors to watch them. They sat at least 200 meters (yards) from the few thousand men at the match. Iranian state television, which long has been controlled by hard-liners, aired footage of women cheering, and commentators even acknowledged their presence. "There can be no stopping or turning back now," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. "History teaches us that progress comes in stages, and this is just the beginning of a journey." Iran faced a potential ban from FIFA international matches if it didn't allow women into the game. The pressure from FIFA and Iran's soccer-loving public has grown since September, when an Iranian woman detained for dressing as a man to sneak into a match set herself on fire and died upon learning she could get six months in prison. The self-immolation of 29-year-old Sahar Khodayari, who became known as the "Blue Girl" for her love of the Iranian team Esteghlal, whose uniforms are blue, shocked Iranian officials and the public. At the match Thursday, a reporter with Iran's state-run IRNA news agency posted a video online of chador-wearing officers trying to grab a woman she said had a sign in Khodayari's honor. The crowd could be heard chanting, "Let her go!" The reporter wrote on Twitter that the woman slipped away from officers and ran off. Hard-liners and traditional Shiite clerics, citing their interpretation of Islamic law, believe in segregating men and women at public events, as well as keeping women out of men's sporting events. The effort to allow women back into stadiums has gone through fits and starts. In 2006, then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted women to attend matches to "improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere." However, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, opposed the decision. Then, last year, Iranian authorities allowed a select group of women into Azadi Stadium by invitation only to watch the Asian Champion League final. Infantino said that "FIFA now looks more than ever toward a future when ALL girls and women wishing to attend football matches in Iran will be free to do so, and in a safe environment." Activist groups outside of Iran remain suspicious of Tehran. Amnesty International called the latest decision "a cynical publicity stunt by the authorities intended to whitewash their image." "Instead of taking half-hearted steps to address their discriminatory treatment of women who want to watch football, the Iranian authorities should lift all restrictions on women attending football matches, including domestic league games, across the country," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director. Still, many in Iran embraced the move, like shopkeeper Amir Ali Bagheri, who sold Pashaei a Team Melli jersey ahead of the match. Women "are so excited they are going to the stadium," he said. "God willing, there will be freedom sooner so that they can attend all matches, not just the national team matches. That will be much better." After the match, Pashaei said she hoped authorities would open up more matches to women so she could attend them with her family. "The 'Blue Girl' and her stories did help. Of course, efforts by women activists and feminists were very effective," she said. "We are happy anyway and hope this will continue, not just in national team matches." ___ Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2019

Mitchell and Conley pairing could give Jazz offense a lift

By John Coon, Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah changed the entire dynamic of its backcourt after acquiring veteran point guard Mike Conley from the Memphis Grizzlies in July. Will it be enough to turn the Jazz into an NBA championship contender? That’s what Utah is banking on heading into the 2019-20 season. Conley joins rising star Donovan Mitchell to form what could be one of the league’s more potent backcourt duos in the season ahead. Mitchell averaged 23.8 points and 4.2 assists in his second season, but struggled at times with his scoring efficiency. Conley promises to relieve some of the playmaking burden that Mitchell felt at times as an NBA sophomore. “Mike Conley is an elite point guard,” Quin Snyder said at the team’s media day on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “When I say elite that manifests in a lot of different ways. Certainly on the court, some of the things he does and the feel he has for the game and for players around him is really unique. He impacts the game.” Conley is one of the league’s most efficient point guards in the pick-and-roll and a reliable shooter. He scored a career-best 21.1 points per game in his final season in Memphis while also averaging 6.4 assists per game. Mitchell anticipates seeing Utah’s offense open up thanks to Conley’s patience and court vision. “He’s a guy who goes at his own pace and that’s one of the things I’m really starting to learn,” Mitchell said. “It’s not really always about getting in there and scoring. He’s creating and finding guys who are open.” For his part, Conley is savoring the potential of joining Mitchell in the backcourt and playing with a talent-laden roster that also includes two time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. “We have a team, with our depth and guys who play both sides of the ball, that allows us to get into a lot of different schemes that the other team might not be able to do, which is exciting,” Conley said. “It’s exciting when you have that versatility.” Other things to know about the Utah Jazz heading into the 2019-20 season: INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR Six of the 20 players on Utah’s training camp roster come from outside the United States. Two of those players, Gobert (France) and Joe Ingles (Australia), played key roles in driving their national teams to success in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Gobert credits the NBA with making big strides in growing the game globally with the influx of international players playing for the Jazz and other teams in the league. The league plans to broadcast multiple games during prime time in Europe this season, including three Utah games. “Twenty years ago, it was harder for those kids to think they were going to be NBA players,” Gobert said. “Now, anywhere in the world, you can have that goal and I think it’s great for the game.” VETERAN PRESENCE The Jazz signed multiple veteran free agents to help boost their offense and defense during the offseason. Bojan Bogdanovic was the highest profile free agent to join Utah, signing a four-year, $73.1 million deal in July. Bogdanovic averaged a career-best 18.0 points for Indiana last season and shot 42.5% from 3-point range. Utah also added Jeff Green, Ed Davis, and Emmanuel Mudiay on shorter deals in July. Davis gives the Jazz a defensive specialist who can spell Gobert in the middle when needed. Green adds additional scoring punch on the wing. “We have it all on paper,” Green said. “We have to translate it on court when the season starts.” HEALTHY AGAIN Mitchell was limited in his offseason training last summer when he suffered a foot injury at the end of his rookie season. The third-year guard had no such issues this summer, playing for Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and getting plenty of time in the gym to workout with teammates like Conley and Royce O’ Neale. “I could go to the gym whenever I wanted to shoot,” Mitchell said. “That’s one of the things you really miss when you get hurt.” PROVING GROUND Green signed a one-year deal with the Jazz in July — his fourth consecutive year on a one-year contract. He is with his sixth team in five seasons after posting 12.3 points per game on 47.5% shooting for Washington last season. Utah views him as a potential starter or sixth man. For Green, joining Utah is equally about playing for a championship contender and proving his value to the rest of the league. “I’m never satisfied,” Green said. “I think when you are, that’s when you have an early exit.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 1st, 2019

After 7th place finish, Team USA reflects on what went wrong, next steps

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com BEIJING -- The result of Saturday's seventh-place game didn't really matter. Once the United States Men's National Team beat Brazil in its final pool play game at the FIBA World Cup, it had qualified for the Olympics. Once it lost to France in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, its run of five straight major tournament titles had come to an end with no shot at a medal. And once it lost to Serbia on Thursday, it was doomed to the second worst tournament finish in USA Basketball history, with the only worse result coming when a team of junior college players went 0-4 at the 2001 FIBA Americas tournament. But the U.S. beat Poland 87-74 on Saturday to finish seventh at the World Cup and put an end to its first two-game losing streak since 2002. Only nine Americans played, with Kemba Walker (neck) joining Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart on the sideline. Donovan Mitchell led the way with 16 points and 10 assists. Gregg Popovich said afterward that there's neither shame nor blame to be distributed following the Americans' worst finish in a tournament to which it sent NBA players. "Like we should be ashamed because we didn't win the gold medal?," Popovich said. "That's a ridiculous attitude. It's immature. It's arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn't respect all the other teams in the world and doesn't respect that these guys did the best they could." Falling short of their gold-medal goal still comes with pain, something the Americans have had to deal with since losing to France in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, and something that won't go away when they arrive back in the States on Sunday. "That's something," Myles Turner admitted, "that's going to stick with us for the rest of our lives." The sting could ultimately be worse for the players who will never again have the chance to play for the national team. That could be a significant portion of this roster, with higher profile Americans expected to play at next year's Olympics in Tokyo, and with the next World Cup four years away. A lack of top-flight talent is the easy answer for why this was the first American team of NBA players to lose since the 2006 World Championship. And it's not a wrong answer. Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and James Harden would obviously have made a difference. But when asked about his country's failure to win gold this year, Kobe Bryant insisted that, no matter who is wearing the red, white and blue, losses will happen. "It's not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S.," Bryant said at a FIBA press conference on Friday. "The rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time. It's to the point now where us in the U.S., we're going to win some and we're going to lose some. That's just how it goes." Bryant brought up the 2008 Olympics, when one of the most talented teams ever assembled led Spain by just two points early in the fourth quarter of the gold medal game. At the World Championship two years later, a U.S. Team with four future NBA MVPs escaped with a two-point win over Brazil in pool play. "Put the best players that you think are going to make the best team out there on the floor," Bryant said, "we are still going to have challenges. It's not going to be a cakewalk. The days of the '92 Barcelona Dream Team are gone. They're over." That doesn't mean that the United States couldn't have won this tournament with the players that it had, some of which had disappointing performances on the world stage. In each of the last five major international tournaments, the U.S. ranked No. 1 in offensive efficiency. Through its first six games in this tournament, it ranked ninth offensively. Before breaking with a 12-for-25 performance against Poland on Saturday, the Americans had shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range, well below the NBA league average (35.5 percent), even though the 3-point distance is shorter on the FIBA floor. The general sentiment among the players was that the loss to France was an "anything can happen on any given night" situation, but Harrison Barnes said that it was "executing on the offensive end" where the team fell short in a general sense. "If you look at a lot of these teams and how they played," Barnes continued, "they're able to fall back on their system. They're able to fall back on things that they know, things that they've run, guys that have been playing together for five, six, seven years. For us, we had to put our hat on defense. That was what we kind of made our calling card. Offensively, we knew we weren't going to ever get to that place where, 'OK, here are two or three quick-hitters.' But we did the best that we could." Though the U.S. was one of the best defensive teams in the tournament, it couldn't turn enough stops into transition opportunities. In each of the five major tournaments that the U.S. won from 2008 to 2016, it ranked first or second in pace. Through its first six games, this U.S. team ranked 13th of 32 World Cup teams in pace (an estimated 75 possessions per 40 minutes). Fewer fast breaks led to more half-court offense, where the execution just wasn't there consistently enough. There's something to be said about ingrained teamwork and the difference between how American and international players are developed. But four weeks of preparation and five pool-play games isn't enough time to build the requisite chemistry when the Americans bring back an almost entirely new roster every time they compete in a major tournament. This team also had less practice time than previous editions of Team USA. From the day before its first game in China to the end of the tournament, the U.S. never practiced on days between games, choosing only to get in the gym for one-hour shootarounds in the morning on game days. Next year's Olympics are earlier in the summer, so that preparation time will likely be shorter than the four weeks that this team was together before the start of the World Cup. And without the same chemistry that their opponents have, more talent -- guys that can get buckets on cue -- is needed. That means more roster turnover. And if some of these players never put on the USA uniform again, they can at least hope that the work that they've put in over the last six weeks will propel them to strong NBA seasons as a silver lining. "Individually, across the board, everybody gets a lot better by playing and going through this entire process," Joe Harris said this week. "You spent 39-plus days with one of the best coaches in the world, one of the best coaches in the game in Pop. "Just being around them, learning their approach to the game, being around all these great players, competing with them night in and night out, whether it's practices or games, and competing at a high level every night against some of the best players in the world, this is the best offseason preparation you can have going into the season." There don't seem to be any misgivings among the players about spending the last four weeks on the other side of the world. "We made that pact that we were going to do whatever we could to win basketball games," Barnes said. "To go out there and try to win gold medals. On the flip side of that is that there's a chance that we may not win. And, I think there are no regrets from our group in terms of what we've given, what we sacrificed, the commitment that everyone has made away from their families, teams, organizations, all of that." They all have an NBA season to prepare for now, and at least some of them would love a shot at redemption next summer. "There's no telling," Walker said about possibly playing next year. "It's not up to me. I would love to. It was really fun to be a part of. I would love to do it again." Hopefully with better results. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 15th, 2019

Cohesion keeps building for Team USA at FIBA World Cup

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com SHENZHEN -- Over the last few weeks, members of the United States Men's National Team have often said this about their opponents: "They've been playing together for a long time." Sometimes, it's accurate. Sometimes, it's not. Only four of the nine rotation players for Turkey, the team that almost beat the U.S. in its second game here at the FIBA World Cup, were in the rotation for Turkey at Eurobasket two years ago. In comparison to this version of Team USA, which came together exactly five weeks ago Monday, yes, the opponent typically has more continuity from summer to summer. The "they've been playing together for a long time" thing has also been drilled into American players as they prepare for FIBA play. It comes out of their mouths pretty easily when they're asked about an opponent or why a game was tougher than it should have been in regard to the talent on the floor. Maybe it's an excuse. Maybe it's just reality. USA coach Gregg Popovich, in talking after his team's 89-73 victory over Brazil on Monday, said, "Those guys have been together awhile" about the opponent. But down the hall from where Popovich took the podium, there was something new. It was the opponent saying the following about the Americans: "It looks like they've been playing together for a long time." The opponent was NBA veteran Anderson Varejao, who has seen multiple versions of the U.S. National Team. And after facing this one, he made note of the chemistry. "That's a great complement," Kemba Walker said when told about Varejao's appraisal. "I think we're getting it." If there ever was a U.S. National Team where the whole needed to be greater than the sum of the parts, this is it. This team does not have the offensive superstars that past teams have had. Walker: 'Chemistry is coming along' In the gold medal game of the 2010 World Championship, Kevin Durant scored 28 points against Turkey. In the gold medal game of the 2012 Olympics, he dropped 30 on Spain. In 2014, Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 52 points against Serbia in the World Cup final. And in the 2016 Olympics, the U.S. took gold behind another 30 points from Durant against the Serbs. Through five games at this tournament, no U.S. player has scored more than 20 points in a game. And the only 20-point game came from Jaylen Brown against a team (Japan) that went 0-5 with the tournament's third worst defense, statistically. That doesn't mean that the U.S. can't be a good offensive team. It just has to be a more cohesive offensive team than American teams of the past. "We just need each other so bad," Walker said. "And I think we're starting to realize that each and every game. These teams are so good. These teams are so tough. It's just taking everybody and everything we've got to win these games. The chemistry is coming along really well." You could start to see it against Greece on Saturday, though the Americans shot just 36 percent and barely scored a point per possession (69 on 68). The ball movement was sharper than it had been previously and they got a lot of open shots that just didn't fall. Some of those shots started to fall on Monday, and the U.S. had its second-most efficient offensive game of the 10 its played (including exhibitions), scoring 89 points on 75 possessions (1.19 per). The only more efficient game its had was against the aforementioned, 30th-ranked Japan defense. In that Japan game, the U.S. never scored on more than five consecutive possessions. Prior to Monday at the World Cup, its longest stretch of consecutive scores was six straight against the Czech Republic in Game 1. In that ugly win over Greece on Saturday, the U.S. never scored on more than three consecutive possessions, and only twice scored on three straight. But spanning the third and fourth quarters against Brazil on Monday, the U.S. scored 10 straight times. It was a 24-10 run that broke the game open and was fueled by an offense that's gaining more confidence and more cohesion, especially against zone defense, which was a real struggle just six days earlier. "I think we're starting to get more familiar with one another," Joe Harris said. "I think you see it every game where the ball really moves a lot offensively, and then you're sacrificing for one another defensively." Quick decisions critical to success There was some individual excellence in that run, but the final three points came when Myles Turner made a quick flash to the ball and an even quicker pass to Walker for a three from the top of the key against the zone. The U.S. had mostly been winning with a defense that ranks first in the World Cup (84 estimated points allowed per 100 possessions) through pool play. Defense will remain critical, because the offense of their opponent (France) in Wednesday's quarterfinal ranks second (123 estimated points scored per 100), behind only that of the potential opponent in the semifinals (Serbia, 129 per 100). Although this U.S. team doesn't have those elite bucket-getters, it will still need to get buckets -- and it will need to get them via cohesion, quick actions and decisiveness (like Turner displayed on his assist to Walker). Sometimes, you can get by on talent. The U.S. is, once again, the only team in the tournament with 12 NBA players. But this team needs to get more out of its talent than teams of the past. The more games they play, the more the Americans know what they're doing collectively. They've seemingly taken a big step forward over the last week. And in the eyes of Varejao, the U.S. is, for once, one of the teams that "has been playing together for a long time." "Chemistry is built once you hit adversity together and you got to push through it," Jaylen Brown said, "and we've been challenged multiple times on this trip." The toughest challenge to date will come Wednesday against the best opponent the U.S. has faced in the first elimination game its played. But the Americans seem more ready, and more together, than ever. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 10th, 2019

FIBA: Can Gilas pull the rug from under Tunisia?

It's been very difficult watching Gilas Pilipinas play at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China. They've put out the effort, sure, but the execution on both ends has left a lot to be desired and it's pretty clear that the team has paid for the laughably short preparation time they were given. Now let's look at the general positional matchups we can expect against Tunisia. BIGS Philippines: Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Troy Rosario, Raymond Almazan, Japeth Aguilar Tunisia: Salah Mejri, Mohamed Hadidane, Mokhtar Ghyaza, Makram Ben Romdhane, Mohamed Abbassi If our bigs had a hard time against Yanick Moreira and Valdelicio Joaquim of Angola, then boy are they gonna find the going rough against Salah Mejri of the Dallas Mavericks and Makram Ben Romdhane, who plays for France's Saint-Chamond Basket. The 7'1" Mejri has been an absolute beast in China, averaging around 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, and he will give Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, and Japeth Aguilar plenty to handle in the paint. Ben Romdhane has been great, too, as a complimentary piece to Mejri who's able to grab a lot of rebounds.  WINGS Philippines: Gabe Norwood, RR Pogoy, CJ Perez Tunisia: Michael Roll, Ziyed Chennoufi, Omar Mouhli, Radhouane Slimane Maccabi Tel-Aviv wingman Michael Roll will be the one to watch at the perimeter. The 6'5" shooter will be a tough match-up for the struggling Gabe Norwood and RR Pogoy, and I just hope Roll doesn't pop the cap for 20+ points against us. If he does, it'll be another long night for Gilas.  Needless to say, we'll need another big outing from breakout player CJ Perez to keep in-step with Tunisia and be in a position to win when the clock reaches the waning minutes. If Perez gets cold, too, we're an easy KO for Tunisia. GUARDS Philippines: Paul Lee, Kiefer Ravena, Robert Bolick, Mark Barrocca Tunisia: Omar Abada, Nizar Knioua, Mourad El Mabrouk The challenge for our inconsistent guards will be trying to stop the duo of Omar Abada and Mourad El Mabrouk. Abada is a speedster with great court vision, and he has a knack for finding Tunisia's bigs in easy spots to score. As for El Mabrouk, he's a streaky shooter, and if he gets going, we'll be in a world of hurt.  I want to personally see a strong bounce back effort from Kiefer Ravena. He's had a lot of ups and downs in the World Cup, but a breakout performance here will silence the critics and help our chances of maybe still clinching that Olympic berth. COACHING Philippines: Yeng Guiao Tunisia: Mario Palma.  Coach Palma isn't a stranger to Asian basketball. In fact, if memory serves, he's not a stranger to Coach Yeng, too. Both Coach Yeng and Coach Palma were at the 2009 FIBA Asia Cup in Tianjin, where coach Yeng's Philippines lost to coach Palma's Jordan in the KO quarterfinals. Jordan would eventually bag third place and qualify for the 2010 FIBA World Cup in Turkey. If Coach Yeng remembers that, then that would be great motivation to win today and get one back against his former tormentor. OVERALL We are not favored against Tunisia, at least judging by how they very nearly qualified to the second round had they beaten Puerto Rico two nights ago. Mejri will give us a lot of problems, especially if our interior defense remains lethargic, and it'll be a challenge guarding their shooters if our perimeter rotations are still bogged down. Still, a good shooting night and having minimal turnovers will help our chances at springing an upset. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 6th, 2019

2nd French game in 3 days halted after homophobic banners

METZ, France (AP) — A second French league game in three days was interrupted due to banners deemed homophobic as Paris Saint-Germain beat Metz 2-0 Friday. Referee Frank Schneider stopped the game briefly after the banners were unfurled in the first half. He then allowed play to resume some minutes later when they were removed. The latest incident came after Wednesday game between Nice and Marseille — also in the top tier — was halted for several minutes after Nice fans unfurled two banners with homophobic messages. Metz fans appeared to be responding to that incident by targeting the French league (LFP), showing a banner saying "I won't be on TV because my words are not very gay." More banners referenced the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, which has links to PSG through owner Qatar Sports Investments. The LFP is attempting to cut out homophobic chanting at games. Earlier this month, a referee stopped a second-division match between Nancy and Le Mans for about a minute after an initial appeal made over the speakers to stop homophobic chanting failed to have an effect. Responding to a slew of injuries, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel handed debuts in Metz to 19-year-old goalkeeper Marcin Bulka and 17-year-old midfielder Adil Aouchiche, who became the club's youngest player to start a league game. Bulka started in place of Alphonse Areola, who is reportedly on the verge of completing a switch to Real Madrid in a swap-deal for Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas. PSG's injury worries deepened ahead of its Champions League opening game against Real Madrid on Sept. 18, with Angel Di Maria and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting both picking up knocks. Choupo-Moting was coach Tuchel's only recognized striker available after injuries to Edinson Cavani (hip) and Kylian Mbappe (hamstring) last weekend, while Brazil striker Neymar remained unavailable and wants to move away from the club. Tuchel was also without the injured Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer, Ander Herrera and Abdou Diallo for the game at the Saint Symphorien stadium. Di Maria opened the scoring with a penalty in the 11th minute after Juan Bernat was unceremoniously upended in the area. The visitors had to wait till the end of the half before Choupo-Moting rose above the static Metz defense to head in Marco Verratti's free kick in the 43rd. Choupo-Moting had to go off toward the end. Di Maria needed treatment in injury time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 31st, 2019

Prosecutors recommend closing rape case against Neymar

By Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian prosecutors recommended Thursday that the investigation of soccer star Neymar on a rape allegation be closed, saying there is a lack of evidence. Sao Paulo state prosecutors Flávia Merlini and Estefânia Paulin said they agree with a police decision of July 30 not to bring charges. A judge will make the final decision. Brazilian model Najila Trindade went to Sao Paulo police to accuse Neymar of raping her at a Paris hotel in May. No complaint was filed with French police. The Associated Press doesn't name alleged sexual assault victims unless they make their identities public, which Trindade did in several interviews. Neymar denied the accusation and said their relations were consensual. He is in France, where he plays for Paris Saint-Germain. "We decided in favor of the closing of the case because there is no sufficient evidence," Merlini said at a news conference. "That doesn't mean acquittal yet. There is still a possibility that the judge reopens the probe." There is no deadline for a judge to rule. Few cases in Brazil are reopened after police and prosecutors suggest their closing. Paulin said the model did not produce any of the evidence she claimed she had, including a video that allegedly proved the player attacked her. "The police investigator asked her to plug her phone to a computer so she could see the video, but she (Trindade) didn't want to do that. She also refused to hand over her phone, and later she said it had been stolen," Paulin said. The prosecutor said Trindade's only injury was to a finger. "The medical report of a private doctor introduced by the victim did not show an injury that proved she was raped," Paulin said. "The slaps and the redness (on Trindade's skin) happened for the satisfaction of both parties." Representatives for Neymar and Trindade did not respond to an AP request for comment on the conclusions of the Sao Paulo state prosecutors. Sao Paulo police are still investigating whether Trindade falsely reported a rape. Police interviewed Trindade three times about her claims. Twelve other people were also questioned. Neymar himself was heard for about five hours in mid-June. Neymar, meanwhile, is still under investigation in a cybercrime case connected to Trindade's allegations. After the model offered the rape charges, he posted images and messages of the accuser without her authorization in his social media channels, in possible violation of her online privacy. The player, who also testified in that investigation in Rio de Janeiro, said the images were posted by his press team......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 9th, 2019

Ligue 1 2019-20: PSG set to dominate once again

By Samuel Petrequin, Associated Press PARIS (AP) — After winning its sixth French championship in seven years last season, Paris Saint-Germain is expected to continue its dominance in what at times can look like a one-team league. For the Qatari-backed PSG, the minimum requirement remains the same: win the French league. PSG's ultimate goal is also unchanged: win the Champions League after years of repeated failures. With its 500-million euro budget — more than five times that of last season runner-up Lille — huge sponsorship deals and top-class players, PSG simply has no rival in a league lacking strength in depth. On paper, Thomas Tuchel's team looks even stronger than last season, when it was crowned champion with five games to spare despite a late dip of form. Amid persistent rumors that Neymar will leave the club and return to Barcelona, PSG remains a formidable attacking force with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria. It also strengthened its backline this summer with the addition of Dortmund defender and France Under-21 international Abdou Diallo, while recruits Idrissa Gueye, Ander Herrera and Pablo Sarabia will provide midfield stability and experience. Sarabia, Herrera and Diallo were included in Tuchel's starting XI last weekend as PSG sealed a seventh consecutive Trophee des Champions — the French equivalent of the Charity Shield — with a 2-1 win over Rennes. PSG took pride in the win, insisting on the importance of the trophy, the 40th since the club's inception back in 1970. But in reality, the only title that really matters in the French capital is the Champions League. Success in Europe's top competition has so far proved elusive for PSG, which has never been beyond the quarterfinals since Qatari backers QSI started funding the club with huge investment eight years ago. In the past three seasons PSG has gone out in the Round of 16, twice wasting strong first-leg leads. The last time it was against Manchester United in March, when PSG became the first team to be eliminated from the competition after winning the away leg 2-0. "We need to carry on in the league, we need to extend our domination," Mbappe said. "We lost two national Cups (last season), we will try to recover them. And there is the Champions League. We have come to a halt in recent years, it's up to us to find a solution and reach a new milestone." More than the offseason recruits, Leonardo's return as sporting director could be the decisive ingredient that was missing in PSG's quest for European glory. Leonardo, who became PSG's sporting director for the first time in July 2011 and held his role until May 2013, has been given full powers by club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi. At a club where star individuals often appear more important than the team itself, Leonardo's return will mark a change of style in the players' management. A disciplinarian, Leonardo has warned Neymar that he would not let him go unless a juicy offer arrived and has reportedly criticized the Brazil star in front of his teammates after he reported late for PSG's pre-season training. "I don't have the key that is going to open the door to the Champions League," Leonardo said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper. "Who has it? Not me. I just want to be clear about our goal: the club is THE great institution at the heart of the entire project." PSG starts the defense of its title on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against Nimes. Lille hosts Nantes, Marseille plays Reims at home and Lyon travels to Monaco on Friday night in the season's opening game. NO MONEY, BIG GOALS After a calamitous season, Marseille's main goal is to return to the Champions League under new coach Andre Villas-Boas. Three years after American billionaire Frank McCourt pledged to revive the 1993 Champions League winners, Marseille failed in its bid to qualify for Europe's top competition and did not even get a spot in the Europa League. Villas-Boas subsequently replaced Rudi Garcia and, despite very limited funds to spend on new players, has promised to deliver quickly in his bid to restore Marseille's past luster. "I don't want to lose time with excuses," he said. "I'm hoping for a podium finish." Villas-Boas has lured 29-year-old forward Dario Benedetto from Boca Juniors and hopes he will be able to keep Valere Germain, Florian Thauvin, Dimitri Payet and Luis Gustavo at the southern club. "We don't have money, it's a shame but it's a reality," Villas-Boas said. "We have some problems related to Financial Fair Play regulations. Now I'm waiting anxiously for the end of the English transfer market because that could change everything for the other teams." STARS' EXILE Nicolas Pepe and Nabil Fekir have become the latest big names to depart the French league as the talent exodus to foreign clubs continues. After scoring 22 league goals for Lille, Pepe left for Arsenal while World Cup winner Nabil Fekir joined Real Betis from Lyon. Lyon's new coaching setup of sporting director Juninho and coach Sylvinho have yet to find a replacement for Fekir, who left in the wake of other top players including Tanguy Ndombele and Ferland Mendy......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 7th, 2019

Ryder Cup behind him, Jim Furyk still going strong

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — Nothing short of an eagle on the 592-yard seventh hole at Royal Portrush was going to win the hole in a friendly fourballs match during practice for the British Open. Leave it to 49-year-old Jim Furyk to have the best chance. "Don't do anything crazy here," Patrick Cantlay, born the same year Furyk turned pro, said to his opponent. Furyk's 18-foot putt from below the hole paused on the right edge of the cup before dropping, and he looked over in Cantlay's direction with a grin. These are good times. Under the circumstances, not many people would have been surprised if Furyk was past his time by now. He was last seen at the British Open in 2016 at Royal Troon when he finished 29 shots behind the record performance of Henrik Stenson. Furyk played only two majors last year, both on exemptions. He wasn't eligible for any of the World Golf Championships last year for the first time since they were created in 1999. Small wonder that fans who recognized him in the airport on his way to Northern Ireland asked if he was playing. "I thought that was kind of funny," Furyk said. He has heard a lot of questions over the last decade that he found funny, if not irritating. One that still sticks with him was a writer who asked him 10 years ago if he feared the game was passing him by. "I wouldn't say it (ticked) me off, but I kind of chuckled," Furyk said Tuesday. "I said, 'Yeah, it's going to pass me by some day, but not now.' The next year, I had my best year and was player of the year." It's not just about age. Phil Mickelson is 49, born a month after Furyk, and he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Mickelson is a special talent, with five majors and one of his 47 victories worldwide coming when he was still in college. Part of it is devoting nearly two years of his life as Ryder Cup captain, with players appointed in their late 40s toward the end of their careers. Most are rarely heard from again on a big stage, with one exception being Davis Love III — another power player — who won at age 51 during his second stint as captain. Furyk never had great length off the tee, and it stands out even more now. He is a pea shooter in an era of cannons. And he's still going strong. "So impressive," said Brooks Koepka, the No. 1 player in the world. "I've played with him a little bit. He really understands his game. And I think when you fully understand what you can and can't do is when you reach your maximum potential. He's doesn't have the big miss. He doesn't have really any weakness. He's very solid all throughout the bag. ... That probably won't be me when I'm 49, I can promise you that." Furyk was determined to press on after Europe won the Ryder Cup in France last fall. He was coping with a shoulder injury that no one paid much attention because there was more interest in his captain's picks. Now that's sorted out. He had every reason to go into ceremonial mode, especially with the PGA Tour Champions — golf's greatest mulligan — available to him next year. Instead, Furyk toiled in the offseason to find balance at home and work, to give himself the best chance to win. "You have to have a motivation and a drive and a hunger to still compete," Furyk said. "And as you get older, you run through different phases of your life. When I first came out on tour, golf was the most important thing in life. I got married, started a family, and the realization we're going to be empty-nesters in a few years has hit me." His daughter, a pole vaulter, will be a senior in high school. His son will be a sophomore. He wants to watch them compete. Furyk said he was pacing the field at the Florida state high school championship in May when she finished ninth. He's coming up on 50. He's short off the tee. And his time is stretched thin. It all changed in March when he tied for ninth in the Honda Classic to get in The Players Championship, and then was runner-up at the TPC Sawgrass, one shot behind Rory McIlroy. That got him into a World Golf Championship. He nearly made it into the Masters, but returning to the top 50 in the world put him in the next three majors. He now is No. 48 in the world, giving him another World Golf Championship next week. He is No. 36 in the FedEx Cup, and the Tour Championship is in sight. "I enjoy seeing the game change," Furyk said. "I don't want to be that old, crusty guy that says, 'Back when I was a kid, the game was different.' It was. The game is always changing. But the best players will always evolve. ... Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to keep adapting." And it keeps working. He is one year older than his world ranking. At his age, with his length, that's not a bad thing......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 17th, 2019

Trump congratulates US women s team on World Cup win

WASHINGTON, USA – US President Donald Trump on Sunday, July 7 (Monday, July 8, Philippine time) congratulated the US women's team for their FIFA World Cup victory , saying the country is "proud of you all." "Congratulations to the U.S. Women's Soccer Team on winning the World Cup! Great and exciting play," Trump tweeted. {source}.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJul 8th, 2019

About face: US routs Trinidad 6-0 in Gold Cup

By Tom Withers, Associated Press CLEVELAND (AP) — The only embarrassment and shame was felt on the other side. Two years later, the U.S. soccer team turned the tables on Trinidad and Tobago. Gyasi Zardes scored two goals in a three-minute span, Christian Pulisic added one during a five-goal barrage in the second half and the Americans unloaded on their nemesis in a 6-0 blowout in the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday night, earning a small dose of revenge over the team that handed them a nightmarish loss in 2017. Aaron Long scored his first two international goals — one with his head, the other off his chest — and Paul Arriola scored as the U.S. tallied five times in 25 minutes while cruising to its second shutout this week and advancing to the quarterfinals in Philadelphia on June 30. It was the first matchup between the U.S. and Trinidad and Tobago since Oct. 10, 2017, when the Americans, needing only a tie to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, lost 2-1 to the Soca Warriors. The embarrassing defeat snapped a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances by the Americans and triggered a top-to-bottom overhaul of the men's program, which has operated in the imposing shadow of the powerful U.S. women, seeking their fourth world title in France. There would be no repeat performance by this revamped U.S. team, which is determined to win back global respect. "Every time we step on the field we want to make a statement," said Zardes, who just missed getting a third goal. "We're trying to change the way the world views American soccer." The Americans posted their most lopsided win since beating Honduras 6-0 in a World Cup qualifier on March 24, 2017, when Pulisic, who took over this game in the second half, also scored and had a pair of assists. But while much of the pre-game talk centered on the U.S. getting payback, the Americans insist they've put the past behind them. "For us, we advance to the next round," coach Gregg Berhalter said. "That's important. Our focus was to prepare for this game knowing that if we'd be able to go to the next round. That was the focus of the group. Trinidad was in our way." Not anymore. With the U.S. leading 1-0 on Long's goal in the 41st minute, Zardes scored from right in front shortly after U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen made a diving save to stop Trinidad from tying a match the Americans dominated. Michael Bradley chipped the ball from the left side to a charging Nick Lima, who headed the ball to Zardes in front. The American striker only had to guide it by Trinidad keeper Marvin Phillip in the 65th minute. Two minutes later, Zardes buried a hard shot from the left side for his 10th international goal and second two-goal game for the Americans. Zardes nearly completed a hat trick, but his low shot from up top in the 70th minute hit the left upright. Next up for the Americans is a matchup with Panama on Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas. The Panamanians improved to 2-0 in Group D of the 16-team tournament with a 4-2 win over Guyana, also clinching a quarterfinal berth. On a picture-perfect night along the shores of Lake Erie, the American team controlled possession and tempo while thoroughly outplaying T&T, which was blanked 2-0 by Panama in its opening match and was eliminated. The Soca Warriors were content to sit back and let the U.S. attack, hoping to spring counters. They nearly connected in the 61st minute as Cordell Cato eluded three defenders on the right side and hit teammate Levi Garcia in stride. But Garcia's shot was high and wide, a close call that prompted a collective gasp from the U.S. faithful. "Big moment," Trinidad coach Dennis Lawrence said. "When you get in that position, you have to put that away." Lawrence was upset with how his team collapsed following the U.S. team's second goal. "How can you play so good for 65 minutes and then so awful for the last 25?" he said, repeating his postgame message to his players. "We have to learn to stand up and fight. We lost focus and we paid the price." Berhalter stuck with the same starting lineup he used in the opener over Guyana but gave the captain's arm band to Steffen for the first time. Bradley captained the Americans in the opening 4-0 win over Guyana. Long, who plays in the MLS for the New York Red Bulls, put the U.S. ahead off a beautiful feed from the left side by Pulisic. Shortly after the U.S. was awarded a free kick, the Americans kept pressing and maintained possession in Trinidad's half before Pulisic spotted Long inside the 6-yard-box and delivered an arching pass to the forward, who left his feet, connected and drove the ball past a sprawling Phillip. The score touched off a flag-waving celebration behind the goal by red-white-and blue clad U.S. fans, who have been anxiously awaiting their team's chance at some redemption. After a 20-month wait, they got a little......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2019

Copa America guests Japan, Qatar still in contention

By Eric Nunez, Associated Press PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Copa America guest teams Japan and Qatar are still in contention as the last round of group stage matches begins, and some of their South American opponents aren't too pleased. Qatar and Japan, who met in the Asian Cup final in February, are in third place in their groups. The top two in each of the three groups qualifies for the quarterfinals but only the two best third-place finishers advance. If winless Argentina is prematurely eliminated, Group B rival Qatar could be responsible after being given entry to the Copa America to help preparations for the 2022 World Cup. Asian champion Qatar has so far drawn with Paraguay 2-2 and lost to Colombia 1-0. "We have come to compete, not to take pictures, even if we admire the players of the teams we are facing," Qatar's Spanish coach Felix Sanchez said on Saturday. "Our main goal is to evaluate ourselves in a tournament of this caliber, so demanding." Sanchez's team on Sunday has the chance to upset Lionel Messi's Argentina, which has only one point from two games. "It would be beautiful to qualify no matter if it is against a monster like Argentina," said Sanchez, whose contract was extended until 2022 after winning the Asian Cup. "It will be a great step, even though we know they are also trying to advance to the next stage." The Qataris have already been invited to return to next year's Copa, which is being hosted by Colombia and Argentina. Australia will be another guest side. Japan has brought an under-23 team to Brazil that is being groomed for the Tokyo Olympics next year. Japan was thrashed by Chile 4-0 but held favorite Uruguay to 2-2 after leading twice. On Monday the young Japanese can eliminate Ecuador to advance and, depending on other results, possibly face host Brazil in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel is particularly upset with Japan's decision to bring its Olympic team. "I do not agree that a guest like Japan gives due importance to its participation by coming with players that are mostly under 23," Dudamel said Saturday after Venezuela beat Bolivia 3-1 and qualified to the quarterfinals of Copa America. "I raise my voice and say Copa America needs to be only for South American teams," he added. "We have not seen South American teams be invited to the African Cup of Nations, tournaments in Europe... We have to respect the hierarchy that we have historically built." There is nothing unusual about guest teams being invited to the Copa America. Mexico, Costa Rica, United States, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, Canada and Japan have all contested past editions. Mexico had the best result among those, reaching the final in 1993 and in 2001. Still, Paraguay coach Eduardo Berizzo said he doesn't like the idea of teams outside of the Americas being given slots. "Playing among all American teams, that is logic," Berizzo said after drawing Qatar. "We should think of a Copa America with Central and North Americas integrated. I never saw any European cup with South American teams. I strongly believe that Copa America needs to be played by American teams." Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said business was the main reason to invite teams to the Copa America. "We are few countries in South America to organize a tournament with 10 teams, even more so with four phases like in a World Cup," Tabarez said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 23rd, 2019